Saturday, February 06, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Prediction

The NFL season comes to an end with a classic matchup -- an up-and-coming powerhouse led by one of the league's most charismatic stars, against a perennial contender trying for one last shot at glory for its retiring superstar (and most critical offensive player). Here's a quick breakdown of the two teams:

Carolina Panthers:  Like it or not (and somehow there are fans who don't), it's Cam Newton's league right now, everyone else is just playing in it. There are two players in the league right now who seem like they're having a blast every minute they're on the field; one is Newton and the other is Rob Gronkowski. Newton's attitude is contagious to his entire team, and they have rallied around his leadership, they love their fans, and they have beaten the hell out of opponents, rolling to a 17-1 record so far.

Like Tom Brady, one of the most impressive things about Newton is how well he's done with, to be frank, a less-than-ideal crew of receivers in his spread-option offense. Not that they're awful, but there's just no Calvin Johnson-type stud, no thousand-yard WR in the crew. Still, veterans Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery make plays at the right times, rookie Devin Funchess has been steadily improving in the post-season, and tight end Greg Olsen (who leads the team by far in receptions and yards) is a reliable outlet for Newton on any and every given play.

But the Panthers' real strength is their shutdown defense. Safety Kurt Coleman tied for the league lead in interceptions this seasons, and he and cornerback Josh Norman are the cornerstones of one of the league's best secondaries. Linebacker Luke Kuechly had a game-changing pick-six against Carson Palmer in the NFC Championship Game; after that play, Palmer wasn't the same, and the Cardinals ended up turning over the ball seven times in a 49-15 blowout.

Denver Broncos:  It's hard not to feel bad for Peyton Manning. After a barnstorming 2013 year in which he set season records for touchdowns and passing yards, Manning had his ass unceremoniously handed to him literally from the first play of Super Bowl 48, which turned out to be a record-setting blowout. During the 2015 season, Manning set records for career yards and touchdowns, which are unlikely to be broken in the near future.

And yet despite Denver's buzzsaw defense, featuring all-world linebackers Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, the outcome looks much the same, this time because the Donks' offense isn't quite what it was a couple years ago. Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryious Thomas are better on paper, but Thomas has had key drops all season. Ware, Miller, and CB Aqib Talib are likely to make some plays on defense, but ultimately, the Panthers have much more talent and momentum on both sides of the ball.

The one weakness Carolina has shown repeatedly all season is a knack for building formidable leads in the first half, only to let their opponents come back in the second half. In fact, the Panthers had the worst second-half stats of just about any team in the entire league. They played to this pattern in the divisional playoffs against Seattle, leading 31-0 late n the second quarter before being forced to hold off the Seahags late in the game, ultimately winning 31-24. But the Panthers' merciless squashing of the upstart Cardinals showed that they were aware of that trend, and were finally ready to shut it down. Denver will be the unfortunate recipient of the Panthers' renewed efforts.

Final Score:  Panthers 38, Broncos 17

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Poll Smokers: 2016 Edition

If there's one thing you can count on with the Iowa Caucus, it's for it to be utterly useless in predicting a nominee, or even a real trend. Tuesday's shit-show proved more than ever that there's just not much reason to let these corn-dog-engorged mouth-breathers have precedence in selecting candidates. What the fuck is this coin-toss-on-a-gym-floor bullshit? Game shows are more rigorous in their vetting methodology. This is just shameful.

I've stated before that between Sanders and Clinton, I far prefer Sanders (but will vote Clinton if need be). But the Democratic Party has done a lousy fucking job building a competitive bench of players. Their top two contenders are a former First Lady/Senator/Sec State with negatives as high as her positives, and a 74-year-old man who identifies as a socialist and only caucuses with the Democrats. The also-rans were the guy David Simon based Tommy Carcetti (unfavorably) on in The Wire, and two former Republicans who couldn't get re-elected in their own states. Clinton will save face (and her neck) upon winning the nomination by pulling in Julian Castro as her running mate, but still -- there's a veritable power vacuum in the GOP, and the Democrats seem to avoid taking advantage of the opportunity to set themselves up for the next decade or so, including down-ticket after the next census.

As for the Goopers, you can pick your analysis as you see fit. Trump's a loser because he's spent seven months telling us how yuge his cock was, and he barely held off Marco Rubio to keep his second-place finish. On the other hand, Trump has never run for or held any political office whatsoever, has spent far less money than any other candidate, and still finished in the top three, between two sitting senators. And each of those top three received more votes than any previous candidate in the history of the caucus. Again, take your pick, as neither conclusion helps pick New Hampshire, where Trump still leads comfortably by double digits.

I do have to appreciate Fuckface von Clownstick's meltdown the next morning, if only because it proves what I (and pretty much anyone who's paying attention) said all along -- there's something off about this fucking guy, Trump. I don't think I've ever seen someone in the public eye who's so consistently thin-skinned, so petty and vindictive. Is Cruz a weasel? Sure. Did he do anything out of the ordinary for political campaigns? No, not really. Has von Clownstick been anything but a mouthy dickhead from day one, talking shit about anyone and everyone, making things up as he sees fit? Does he have a right to complain about the shenanigans of others? Is karma actually a thing once in a rare while?

It's just hard to picture someone of Trump's temperament having to work -- having to compromise -- with other people. That's not just an important part of the job, it's the job, full stop. Trump would have some advantage in working with a Republican dominated Congress, particularly a House comprised of rabid, deeply stupid reactionaries. But it wouldn't be a given, especially if he doesn't have a supermajority in the Senate. None of his proposals have any real-world viability. And every other major world leader, excepting perhaps Vladimir Putin, sees him for the obnoxious jerkoff that he is.

With regard to Ted Cruz' dirty tricks in Iowa, the "Voting Violation" flyer is at once obnoxiously stupid and counterintuitive -- conventional wisdom holds Republicans benefitting from low voter turnout (or in this case, low-forehead voter turnout). Either way, someone stupid enough to fall for the flyer is exactly the sort of moron to vote for Cruz or Trump (or really, any of them) in the first place. And Cruz' imputations of Ben Carson dropping out really just boils down to a fairly obvious conclusion -- Carson is an idiot, but he's smart enough to know that he has no chance to win, or even to get a position in someone else's administration.

I don't think he's angling for that anyway, unlike most of the other undercard fools. One thing about professionally religious people in this country is that the more religious they are, the deeper their understanding of the grift. Carson can shuffle his way through New Hampshire and South Carolina, declare that he fought the good fight, and then head home to Florida to rest up, crank out another ghost-written book, and schedule as many "inspirational" speaking engagements as his stomach and wallet can handle. And his supporters will gravitate to Rubio, since Trump long ago barked many nasty things about Carson's admittedly weird Scarface-to-Urkel backstory, and Cruz' little gambit will be fresh in their pea skulls.

So while no one knows for sure how NH shakes out, the narrative seems to be taking hold already -- the establishment GOP wants Rubio, because they hate Cruz, Trump's an asshole, and Rubio is a willing sock puppet. Rubio's biggest gap, in their eyes, is his lack of experience and gravitas, just like Fredo Arbusto. And like with Fredo, the bosses will pair him up with an old hand who can lend the kid a veneer of seriousness. That's where John Kasich comes in.

Really, the one who fell the furthest in Iowa was Jeb Bush. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hello Mutter, Hello Fodder

I've spent months beating into the ground the fish-in-a-barrel meme that Donald Trump's fan base is dumber than a box of rocks. And they are; that assessment has not (will not, cannot) change(d).

But as stupid as they are, they at least have the excuse of lifelong indifference, of being victims of a consumerist, star-fucking quasi-culture that rewards -- or at least refuses to punish -- the dumb and untalented. In that context, it makes sense that there would be a number of people who would be gulled by a professional smartass that has clogged their teevee sets off and on for several decades.

There is no longer a cultural mechanism that identifies and weeds out idiots and preening dipshits; indeed, they all seem to have their own shows. So it's galling, but not completely surprising, that a serially failed "businessman," whose main product is pretending to fire people who don't actually work for him, is hailed as an eminently successful genius. Sure, and the Kardashian sisters don't have any STDs.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has no such excuse. This is someone who for twenty-five years and counting has spun a narrative of organized, systematic persecution, most of it absolutely true. HRC has spent most of her time in the public eye embodying the classic phrase "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not really out to get you".

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Children of a Lesser Clod

Speaking of business failures trying to bamboozle morons about their track records, abortion kidnapper Carly Fiorina lit up the Trump-less Gooper debate tonight swinging the chain at her fellow vagina-owning candidate. I am definitely no fan of Hillary Clinton, but really, Fiorina's just awful in every respect. I don't know if she's self-funded or not; I assume that after her monkey-fuck of a Senate campaign here in Cali, she's learned to fleece some other group of idiots out of their money.

Which makes me happy; on the one hand, as much as I despise people like Trump and Cruz (and indeed, the entire rest of the GOP bottom-feeders), at least it makes some warped sense why people might support them. They have some self-reinforcing viability.

But what's the motivation for someone willing to tell a pollster at this stage of the game that they support one of the "margin of error" candidates? What sort of maroon is actually telling someone, "Yeah, I'm still holding out for Huckabee?"

The eternal question remains:  What's wrong with these people? That's okay, I still believe sincerely that it is utterly wrong to allow suckers to keep their money.

And yet, just as your average Breitbart comments thread turns into a pig-fucking contest before you scroll through a single screenshot, so too occasionally does your MoJo comments feed. I mean, these fucking people waste no time forgetting that the article is about what a shrill, nasty beast Carly Fiorina is, and instead devolve instantly into a Hillary vs. Bernie slugfest. Even with just two real candidates, Democrats waste no time in going full circular firing squad.

Some of the People All of the Time

You might not believe this, and I certainly wouldn't blame you, but I'm getting tired and bored of talking about Trump. I really just wish he'd fucking go away already, and never darken the world's doorstep again. Consistently the point of reference for my interest (which is also fading fast) is in the people who are itching to vote for him, who stand in line to listen to his moronic "my dad can beat up your dad" type of tautological jabber, and eat it right up and come back for more.

Dropping the Hammer

Looks like the militia finally got regulated. After giving these clowns a month to work out their toy army siege fantasies, it all came crashing to an end, ignominiously, on a snowy road to nowhere. Say this much for noted wearer of cowboy hats and tarps LaVoy Finicum -- he meant what he said about how he'd rather die than go to jail.

If anyone was going to get taken down in this, it was Finicum; while Ammon Bundy at least made the effort to present a calm, rational demeanor in his irrational endeavor, Finicum seemed to relish the opportunity to play up the Yosemite Sam stereotype.

It's too bad that someone had to die before something actually got done about this nonsense, but it's not like we didn't all see something like this coming up the road. Perhaps the only real surprise in all this is just how few of them there were -- twenty on all, counting Finicum, the eight that were arrested, and the eleven that remained afterward, most of whom have already been rolled up.

It will be interesting to see if the "movement" sees those low numbers and is disheartened by their measly turnout, or emboldened to step up the internuts recruitment efforts. This is the very essence of what fuels the various 5GW terrorist cells overseas, up to and including more notorious groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. The ease and flexibility of social media enables this sort of thing.

What sets the American domestic terror cells apart strategically is their lack of anonymity. They are so steeped in the bizarre connection between early Mormon land-poaching in the American West and a unique interpretation of certain Constitutional clauses, they just assume everyone's on their side because they're right. And they're not; just like cults inflicting their personal interpretations of Biblical or Quranic text on everyone else, they're simply re-reading the supreme law of the land to suit their personal purposes.

This is not some dopey "urban vs. rural" contretemps of condescension, this is simply a matter of what the appropriate avenues for protest are against laws we disagree with. To attempt to incite insurrection and subvert the Constitution is, not to put too fine a point on it, dangerous by definition, and in the hands of driven zealots, a singularly dangerous proposition. I may kvetch about the corrupted gubmint we live under, and the elites who run it for themselves and their dogsbodies in the media, but I have no illusions about what life would be like for any non-Bundy types in Bundystan.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

As much as I dislike the Patriots and Broncos, I have to admit that the final four team in the playoffs are also the best teams of their respective conferences. These should be good games, leading to a good Super Bowl. You can't say that every year. Place your bets, folks.

AFC Championship Game
New England (-3) at Denver:  Just what you always wanted, another Patsies-Donkeys showdown. It's a testament not only to the consistency of the two quarterbacks, but of the dearth of consistent competition in the rest of the AFC. Whether it's Tom Brady's bland, lifeless diet, or Peyton Manning's tedious fake audibles, there's something in this game for everyone to hate on. This is almost certainly Peyton Manning's final season, unless he has some sort of weird death wish, so this 17th matchup between the two quarterbacks is probably the last.

As for the game itself, the Patriots won their first ten games of the season before losing in Denver on November 29th, 30-24 in overtime. The Patsies' late-season fade, losing four of their final six games, cost them their top playoff seeding, which is why this game is in Denver rather than Foxborough. Denver has a middling offense at best, but their defense is first in total yards and passing yards allowed, third in rush yards, and fourth in points allowed. New England has one of the better offenses (except for their 30th-ranked rushing attack), and a mostly top-10 defense.

Manning is about as rested and healthy as he's going to get, but it's going to be the Donkeys' D that makes the difference in this one. New England's o-line is banged up, and Denver DC Wade Phillips is going to put the pressure on Brady all day. Fun fact #1: Denver is the only team in the league that Brady has a losing record against (6-8). Fun fact #2: Brady is the only one of the four starting QBs this weekend that was not a #1 overall draft pick -- yet he has three more winning Super Bowl rings than the other three QBs combined.
Final Score:  Broncos 21, Patriots 20

NFC Championship Game
Arizona (+3) at Carolina:  Either of these teams is better than the Broncos or Patriots, which should give you an idea of how the Super Bowl will roll (though I'm not 100% convinced that the Cardinals would beat the Patriots). Both Arizona and Carolina derped their respective ways through last week's divisional home stands, barely holding off clearly inferior opponents.

In the Panthers' case, they had the Seattle Seahawks down 31-0 at halftime before letting up and allowing Seattle to score 24 points in what was almost a legendary comeback. This is a highly disciplined unit that is unlikely to repeat that mistake. The Cardinals, on the other hand, were barely competitive against a wounded Packers team that Arizona had handily throttled just two weeks earlier. Only a fluke deflection touchdown saved them from what would have been an epic collapse.

Bruce Arians is a good coach, and one of the more colorful characters in the league. It would be nice to see Larry Fitzgerald get a ring. But it's a long trip to the East Coast, and the Panthers are also a well-coached team with a brutal defense, and a need to show that they can get a good team down and keep them there. Mark it right now:  the Carolina Panthers are going to win Super Bowl 50.
Final Score:  Panthers 30, Cardinals 17

[Update 1/28/16 10:00 PST:  Almost nailed the Pats-Donks score on the money, and even almost had the Cards' point total. But it's the Carolina Panthers that really showed me something with their dismantling of the hapless Cardinals who, while you wouldn't have known it to watch them against Carolina, had the top offense in the league, and were second in passing yards and points scored. I'll do a Super Bowl preview/prediction with all the specifics next Friday, after the injury rosters for the game are released, but right now the game looks like a mismatch much greater than the average spread (3.5 at the beginning of the week; currently 6.5 in most spreads) would indicate. Denver's defense is very good, no doubt; it got them this far. But the Panthers' D is just as good, maybe better in some respects, and their offense is much better than Denver's.]

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Widening Impunity

In the latest volley fired by the freeloading peckerwoods who illegally took over a federal building, and have yet to be brought to justice for it, some asshole drove all the way from New Mexico to Oregon to make a point that exists mostly in his fevered cranium:

A rancher from New Mexico renounced his U.S. Forest Service grazing contract at an event held Saturday by an armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest federal land use policies.

Adrian Sewell of Grant County, New Mexico, took the action at the event attended by about 120 people at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. A group led by Ammon Bundy began occupying the refuge in eastern Oregon on Jan. 2. The group plans to open the 300-square-mile refuge for cattle this spring.

Bundy has said the federal government has no authority to enforce federal grazing contracts with ranchers.

As a contract analyst for a local government agency, I can tell you definitively what you already know -- first, you don't cancel a contract with the government by symbolically ripping it up and proclaiming "I renounce thee, uncouth parchment!" three times; secondly, cancellation of any contract does not then magically entitle you to then use for free that which you were previously contracted to pay for.

These people disgust me, in a very deep and visceral way. Part of it is their obnoxious, overweening sense of entitlement, that because they raise beef cattle, they must (not should, must) be allowed to use as much public lands as they want, for as many cattle as they want, and not pay if they don't feel like it.

Let's not kid ourselves about this, folks -- this is an insurrection in the making, populated by dangerous, deranged, volatile people with a lot of high-powered weapons, and a righteous cause to use them for. Their goal is to spread the insurrection as far and wide as possible, to defy the gubmint to do anything about any of it, to provoke a violent confrontation.

The ironic part of all this is that you can bet that each and every one of these insurrectionists and their supporters were outraged at all the urban riots over the past year or so, local residents expressing their frustration extra-legally over the treatment they were receiving from their local law enforcement personnel. You can bet that not a single one of them gets the irony.

Again, we all get why the feebs don't want to dance with these shitbirds, but either the law means something or it doesn't; either we are all part of this nation and its laws or we are not. It's like being a little bit pregnant -- no such thing.

This has gone on for almost a full month now. The residents of Harney County have repeatedly asked these dickheads to leave. But the time for them being allowed to leave is over with; these fuckers need to go to jail, the sooner the better. What does the federal government of the United States of America plan to do to enforce its federal statutes, and prevent future instances from occurring? How many more decades will king of the deadbeat ranchers Cliven Bundy be allowed to owe millions of dollars, when reg'lar folks get collection notices and interest tacked on when they owe the IRS a few hundred bucks?

These traitors keep asking whose country this is. I'm wondering the same thing. Pretend they're black, if that's what it takes to get motivated to actually do something about this.

This Week In "Stupid People With Guns"

We've already heard about Track Palin and his Obama-induced PTSD. But here's another one that won't surprise you in the least:

RENTON, Wash. - A 40-year-old woman was seriously injured Thursday when she was shot in the chest inside a Renton movie theater, police said.

The shooting happened at around 8 p.m. at a movie theater at the The Landing in Renton during a showing of the film "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi."

"It got about 15-20 minutes into the film and I believe the lady in front of us that got shot was actually talking to her husband or significant other and that's when we heard the loud pop," said one witness, who did not want to be identified. He was sitting 3 or 4 rows behind the man when the gun went off.
Just as witnesses realized it was a shooting, they saw the man make his way toward a nearby exit.
"We saw the lady, she was laying on the bench with a shot in her upper chest," a witness said.
Renton police believe the shooter may have been intoxicated at the time.
Police say the shooter's father called 911 Thursday night from his Newcastle home and told dispatchers his son was distraught and told him that he dropped his gun at a Renton movie theater and it discharged.
The 29-year-old suspect, who has not been identified, was booked into the King County jail on charges of investigation of felony assault.

Or this one:

A 27-year-old was in jail charged with murder Saturday after he allegedly shot and killed a Good Samaritan who tried to help him when he was stuck in the snow in North Carolina, police said.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said the suspect's car slid off the road and got stuck in snow outside Charlotte, on Friday.

Some people who were passing by stopped to help. Reid said that the group believed there was something wrong with the man, so they said they were going to call the police.

The suspect, identified as Marvin Lee, then jumped out of the car with a pistol and allegedly opened fire, Reid said.

"He shoots and hits one of them," Reid said, adding that the victim fell to the ground.

After that "he walks over and fires multiple shots into him," Reid added.

Here's how all three of these instances will go down:
  1. Track Palin will get out of jail and promise to clean up his act, and be allowed to keep his gun(s).
  2. The movie theater idiot in Washington will get his felony dropped to a misdemeanor because it was an "accident," and he might get a month in jail and some probation time, but be allowed to keep his gun(s).
  3. The North Carolina asshole will plead insanity, and probably not get away with it. However, at no point will anyone ask how a supposedly insane person got a gun so easily.
I have no proposals or suggestions. I do not know how to solve this problem. I simply think that when some fool misuses a firearm, it needs to be put out there as a reminder. The Second Amendment's biggest flaw is not its ambiguous wording, nor the intellectually dishonest interpretations of it. It's that it assumes equal competence and good intention of everyone, and people who live in the real world know that that just isn't true.

[Update 1/24/16 1:30 PST:  Here's a fun bonus story, courtesy of Mississippi, in which a gun-shop owner and his 17-year-old son were murdered in the shop by a father-son pair of angry customers (who were both wounded as well). Apparently this was all over a $25 service charge (probably a deposit toward the total, as is customary with most repair shops) for a firearm that had not yet been repaired. Assuming they survive, the killers can contemplate the cost-benefit analysis as they fend off their cellmates for the next twenty years or so.]


Although I suppose I read a lot more non-fiction than most people do, my usual intake is about 50-50 between fiction and non-fiction. And I don't really make distinctions between "popular" or "unknown" writers as a barometer of what's "good" or not; if it's good it's good. So I've been a huge fan of Stephen King's writing for most of my life, since probably about seventh grade, 1980 or so.

One of my favorite short stories of King's is Survivor Type, a perverse little number about a drug-smuggling surgeon who survives a plane crash and finds himself marooned on a remote Pacific atoll with nothing more than his wits, his surgical tools, and some heroin. Because it is Stephen King, you expect the natural goo and gore of a man slowly devouring himself, piece by piece, going mad the entire time.

What might be less expected, but is barely subtextualized, is how the demented drug-smuggling doctor tries to convince himself throughout, first as he amputates and eats a foot, then the other foot, working his way up each leg until he's eaten everything below the waist, that he will pull through this, that he can survive, that as bad as it gets, it is still worth surviving, that if a ship somehow came out of the horizon and pulled this raving half-man aboard, he could still rehabilitate himself and move on with the rest of his life.

Which brings us to the much-publicized anti-Trump manifesto released by National Review the other day. It's almost too sad and pathetic to watch, this marooned half-man thinking that there is some deus ex machina out there providentially about to restore his loss.

Putting the "Fun" in "Fundraising"

If you have a few shekels to spare this tax season, you should throw some at Jim Wright. He's been knocking some solid stuff for quite some time, and appears to make a hell of an artisanal birch salad bowl. You could also donate to Strix's efforts (though I don't see a PayPal link, so maybe not. Or Ed. Or any number of fine folks.

If you want to contribute to my random rambunctions and profane ruminations, the best way is actually to purchase something through my Amazon store pages (upper right sidebar).

All of this is strictly voluntary, of course. I think we all write because we have no other choice. This is how we all deal with the craziness of our times. If any of us were in it for "the money" we'd be fighting for space on a very crowded sidewalk.

It's just beer money. But it's good to know you're out there, that we're not just pissing in the wind. If you can't afford to give money, then just give a shout-out in comments.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Palin Terminal Stupid Disorder

Since the Arctic Sorceress swept down from the frozen tundra the other day to celebrate Peak Wingnut with Fuckface Von Clownstick, folks have speculated that she might have been drunk. Watch the video for yourself, if you've got the stones. She doesn't seem drunk at all to me.

But she did seem coked up, or on whatever "mother's little helper" legal scrip type of pill that has the same effect. Manic, rambling, incoherent, shrill, in love with her own catchphrases and bons mots -- all the usual characteristics we've come to know and loathe about her were cranked [snorts giant rail off huge square mirror with rock band logo won at county fair] up to eleven. Even Trump looked like he couldn't wait for her to shut the fuck up already.

So it turns out that at about the time Sarah Palin flew to Iowa to dump her word-salad benediction on yet another gaggle of witless morons, her oldest child, Track, flew into a drunken rage and beat up his girlfriend, threw her phone so she couldn't call for help, and held an AR-15 rifle against his own head, threatening to kill himself. Track Palin was then remanded to custody on fourth-degree (domestic violence) assault charges, and denied bail.